Helping Your Disabled War Vet Spouse

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Rachel Cornell wrote a powerful blog post last week for the wives, husbands, parents, and friends of disabled war vets.
A blind artist, author, and speaker, Rachel gets it. When your limb, your vision, your range of motion, or half your intestines are gone, you don’t “put your life back together again” — you build a new life. You don’t “get things back to normal” — normal, as Rachel says, is just a setting on a washing machine. And no therapy can “make you whole again” — because it’s your dreams that make you whole, not your arms, legs, eyes, or guts, and no injury can destroy those. In the aftermath, you hang onto the dreams and deal with the new obstacles, or you focus on the losses and lose the dreams.
If you’re married to someone learning to go after his or her dreams with a body that can’t do some of the things it could do before, it’s going to throw some new obstacles in the path to your dreams, too. People are going to treat your spouse differently now. And it’s going to affect you. Your spouse must handle many things differently now. It’s going to affect how he or she handles your relationship, too.
Expect love. It won’t — it can’t — come in the same packages as before, but it will be there. Find other ways to get the other forms of help and support you need to follow your dreams.
Assume love. Don’t jump to conclusions about the meaning of a harsh or discouraging word or a change in daily rituals. You’ve both got a lot of adjusting to do, and you’re going to overadjust a few times before you get it right.
Look for third alternatives. Honor the dreams. Respect the efforts. Don’t ever think your first idea or two is all you get to choose from. Build the new rituals, the new furniture layouts, the new traditions, the new chore-sharing arrangements that build the new life and move toward the lifelong dreams that make you both whole no matter what.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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  • Patty,
    This is terrific. You are so right too, if one person in a relationship changes, you, by default, end up dealing with some changes of your own.
    The relationship will go through changes as well. The dreams a couple share like their individual dreams are still likely to be intact. The couple will need to have honest and creative conversations as to figure out HOW they will go about making their shared goals become a reality.
    I would also add that couples should look for two things as they get to know their new selves. The first is loving moments. Tender moments in all the emotions. Also, look for resting places. Places where, even in all the changes, everything is alright. It might be a quiet nap you share on a quiet afternoon. Time talking over the Sunday paper. You’re not looking for times that are “normal.” Patty said how I feel about “normal.” Times where you can say to yourself, “Right at this moment, everything is fine.”
    When you get a big life shake-up it’s hard to see that ANYTHING is fine. To find small moments when everything is just fine, you can exhale just a bit. These just fine moments can also build on themselves if you chose to consciously develop them.
    Rachel

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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